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The Jumbo Package: 08-11-10

Saban closes practice to NFL scouts |

As reported yesterday, Saban has put an end to the virtually unfettered access NFL scouts have had in Tuscaloosa over the past two years after Agent Gate, and it's looking like Urban Meyer has, too (emphasis mine):

"Alabama is keeping guys out for the time being, but, as I understand it, that will be lifted at a certain point," said the scout, who asked not to be identified, and who said he had confirmed the lockout with multiple other scouts. "It also looks like Florida is doing the same thing."

Former Gator and current Pittsburgh Steeler Markice Pouncey is currently being investigated on suspicion that he took money from an agent before the team's Sugar Bowl victory last season, and Meyer must not be pleased at the prospect of vacating that victory if the allegations are true.  With all the talent that Alabama and Florida have stockpiled, unscrupulous agents are going to be a problem for each program for a long time and it's no surprise that each are taking drastic steps to try to put an end to them.  As some critics have pointed out, both teams have done so well in recruiting lately because of the opportunity to make it to the NFL each team represents, and limiting scout access might wind up blowing up in Saban and Meyer's faces.  But Pro Football Talk seems to think it's a good first step:

Even though the NFL technically has no blame in this situation, Saban realizes that the league will tiptoe on eggshells when it comes to college coaches, given that college football provides a free farm system for the pro game.  Thus, by holding the NFL responsible for something it really didn't do, Saban ultimately could force the NFL to clean up someone else's mess.

Whether the solution comes from persuading the union to adequately beef up enforcement actions or imposing potential penalties on NFL players who have been paid at the college level or adopting rules compelling NFL players to cooperate with NCAA investigations or some combination of those and other ideas, slamming the door on the scouts gives the NFL a strong incentive to roll up its sleeves and work on fixing the situation.

Even though scouts are no longer essentially free to come and go as they choose, Saban has left the door open for scheduled viewing sessions. 

Saban keeping high-flying Tide's minds grounded |

If you thought Saban took a few minutes to bask in the glow of a national championship, think again:

"Coach Saban came down on us immediately after the game because of the way we played in the fourth quarter,'' quarterback Greg McElroy said.

SI has a great article on how Saban is fighting to keep the team grounded, insisting (correctly) that last season has nothing to do with this season, and the army of Mini-Sabans are apparently on the same page:

"He's so strong-minded you don't even feel like you won anything,'' cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said.

"As a guy who's been around special teams, really successful teams, I don't want to have that complacency, that sense of relaxation,'' McElroy said. "I want to feel pressed. I want to strive for something. We understand this year is completely different from last year. No one is going to hand us the trophy now because of what we accomplished this.''

Sims moves again; works with Tide running backs |

There's been a lot of speculation about the movement of Blake Sims over the last week, from safety his first night, to working with the QBs (but without the black no contact jersey) for several days, and then with the RBs yesterday.  Saban may have given us a clue as to what's actually going on there with this quote:

'We only have three quarterbacks on scholarship,' said Alabama coach Nick Saban. 'Blake played quarterback (in high school). I think Blake is one of those guys who is very open to playing something besides quarterback. 'Since he wasn't here in the summer, he didn't really have the opportunity to learn and grow as a quarterback. But as a guy that can play quarterback on scout team, as a guy who could run ‘wildcat' (formation) for the defense and the quarterback runs, he's a talented guy that has natural running skills.'

Sounds like Sims is headed for the expected redshirt and a year's worth of scout team heroics to me.

Who will return kickoffs and punts for the Crimson Tide? |

Everyone knows about Javier Arenas and his return skills, but after going back and watching a few games and some highlights from last season, I had honestly forgotten just how important his returns had become.  Several times a big return by Javy helped spark a wallowing offense (think Iron Bowl), and finding someone to replace him is no small feat.  While there are plenty of speedy athletes on the team, finding someone who can field a kick cleanly and with whom ball security is not an issue is the first priority, and Trent Richardson and Julio Jones seem to be the odds on favorites:

"We've got more guys right now than the law allows," Alabama coach Nick Saban said at a news conference following the first of two practices on Tuesday.

"We feel really good about Trent, who's really a good kickoff-return guy. We feel good about Julio being sort of the off-returner, because he's a really good blocker, which is what he played all last year."

"It's really the same thing on punt returns. Julio's very good at punt returns -- a different style. ..."

Others mentioned as candidates include Marquis Maze, Darius Hanks, Corey Grant, DeAndrew White, DeMarcus Milliner, and even Mark Ingram.  Still, I'd put money down that we'll be seeing Richardson doing a lot of return work this season for a couple of reasons:

1. He has ridiculous open field speed coupled with a power back's ability to make holes.  If his vision has improved from last season, kid will be a force with the ball in the open field.

2. For all the talk about how he is going to take snaps away from Ingram this year, Ingram is still the guy on this offense and using Richardson as a kick returner is a way to give a playmaker of his caliber opportunities with the ball without taking opportunities from a playmaker like Ingram.

and etc...

McCarron is confident as McElroy's backup |

What, specifically, has McElroy passed down to his understudy? 'Leadership,' McCarron said. 'That probably wasn't my best quality when I came here, just because I'm not a very outspoken guy. I try to lead by example more than just being a vocal leader. Mac does a great job of doing that and getting guys around him to play well. I think I've learned that great attribute from him.'

Video: Check out Alabama OLB Ed Stinson and guard Chance Warmack at practice |

Alabama preseason camp: Day 6, Practice 8

According to Kausler, Stinson was working behind presumptive starter at Jack Courtney Upshaw in the evening session, so keep an eye out for him this season.

Great expectations can lead to greater letdown - ESPN

ESPN's Mark Schlabach warns against buyers remorse for some of the trendier dark horse picks this season.